I should say up front that this is an illusion. I may seem to be back from my blogging break over Christmas and the New Year, but the truth is, I am not. I need all my spare time at the moment to work on my book. So I’m planning to share some extracts from a series of posts I wrote previously on preaching. I have set up my blog to do this entirely automatically every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy this series. Please, also, remember to pray for me as I am writing.
This extract comes from a post in which I was exploring whether expository preaching has to always be a part of a very long series working slowly verse by verse through a book of the Bible. Part of the post was to share the following potential dangers found in these types of slower series, which sometimes have gone on for a decade for a single book.
- Preaching through a book can introduce the very imbalance that it is designed to remove.
Spending a decade in certain biblical books will inevitably mean that the congregation is not going to get the balanced diet we all agree they need. Yes, preaching through books forces preachers to focus on the issues that the book addresses. But there is surely a danger that the preacher will choose a book that is not sufficiently broad enough to give a good diet to the congregation. It might also be a book that reflects his own pet subject; for example, the charismatic might choose 1 Corinthians, the Calvinist Ephesians or Romans, and the eschatology fanatic would head straight for Revelation. So, a very slow preach through a book is not necessarily going to provide a good diet for every church.
- Preaching slowly through a book requires a highly skilled preacher in order to remain interesting.Death by exposition is a real risk when the average preacher tries to emulate a Lloyd-Jones, Boice, or other gifted expositor. Sermons that are nothing more than recycled commentaries are surely boring. It is, of course, possible to preach this way and impart life, if God has gifted you in that way. But as one preacher admitted to me recently, spending even just a few months in one book can—even for the preacher—begin to feel a bit repetitive. Not everyone has the skill-set to be Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
- Insistence on a long series may hinder our aim of making visitors feel welcome.
In this era of floating church populations and weekend breaks, we may not have the same people listening each week. In addition, surely we want our visitors to feel welcome. Imagine discovering on visiting a church for the first time that you have some 50 or 60 (or more!) sermons to catch up on to understand where the church is in their series. This is avoidable by making each sermon in the series stand alone and be more or less self-explanatory. But if we do this, then how is that different from a sermon which exposits a verse or paragraph seeking to put it in its context, but outside of a series?
- Long series bind the preacher and could quench the Spirit.
Whether we do have long series of sermons or not, I do feel the Doctor is definitely right when he says we must build into them the flexibility to respond to the needs of the congregation and the leading of the Holy Spirit.